Cooling Infrastructure, Cooling Security, and a Warming World

Dana, David A. | August 31, 2023

This Essay shows that the climate adaptation challenge for cooling infrastructure—and especially air conditioning—can be thought of as entailing a longer-term challenge and an immediate-term challenge. The longer-term challenge is to spur innovation in air conditioning technology such that new, more environmentally friendly, yet also affordable options become available and adopted. The immediate challenge for cooling infrastructure is to ensure that people right now do not lose their lives and well-being because they lack adequate air conditioning. There are several possible means of meeting the long-term challenge of innovating better, greener, and yet affordable air conditioning, including stricter regulatory requirements, targeted research grants, and innovation prizes. Possible means of meeting the immediate challenge include the use of the federal spending power to incentivize states and localities to use current federal funding streams to better meet household cooling needs, and to take stronger measures, including reformed zoning, to address urban heat island effects. This Essay also underscores the possible national security implications of both the immediate and long-term challenges.

This Essay is published as part of the Northwestern University Law Review’s online essay series. The 2022 topic is “Climate Change & Infrastructure: Existential Threats to Our Built Environment.”


Kirkland & Ellis Professor of Law, Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law and Director of the Program on Sustainability and Food and Animal Law. Many thanks to Heidi Kitrosser, Michael Kremer, Nadav Shoked, Maggie Franz, and Cherie Zhang.

Copyright 2023 by David A. Dana

Cite as: David A. Dana, Cooling Infrastructure, Cooling Security, and a Warming World, 118 Nw. U. L. Rev. Online 66 (2023),